If you follow me on social media, you have probably seen me post a million photos of sweet rescue pups over the last week. Photographing dogs in a professional way is something I have ALWAYS wanted to do, especially for a cause. Luckily, my best friend just happens to run a dog rescue and doubles as my puppy supplier – so finding the models for this project was no problem. In addition to that, I have a pretty sweet partnership with Camera Corner Connecting Point, a local business here in Green Bay, where we get to work together to share fun photography things with all of you! I stopped in last week looking for a lighting setup to assist me with photographing the dogs, and they sent me home with the ProMaster BR130D LED Ringlight! (Side note: if you live in Green Bay and have never been to Camera Corner, you better scoot on over there stat. They are the most helpful people when it comes to your technology & photo questions and make you feel like family the second you walk in the door!)
I’ve already posted plenty of dog photos to my Facebook page and Instagram, and don’t worry – there are some in this post as well, but this blog post is dedicated to showing you what went into capturing them! Whether you’re a photographer who would love to do something similar to this, or someone who is just interested in seeing the behind the scenes and maybe learning a little bit more about how it all worked, this is for you!
We’ll start with a little background info. If you follow my work, you know that I’m a natural light photographer 100% (except for things like wedding receptions where that is not an option, then my Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites come to the rescue – so I guess we can change that to 90%). When using artificial light, I want it to emulate a natural feel as much as possible. When it comes to studio lighting, I’ve dabbled with soft box lighting setups in the past, which are large “boxes” that cover your artificial light source to diffuse and soften the light. Turns out, I have no patience for them as they’re hard to travel with (I don’t have a studio) and they take more time than I would like to spend on setup and take down. That’s just me, personally, though. So, I went to my trusty friends at Camera Corner to find another option. I knew that for the end result I wanted, I needed an artificial light source, and I needed a CONSTANT light – which means exactly what it sounds like – a light that is constantly on and doesn’t create a flash burst every time I click my shutter. The goal was to make the process tolerable for the dogs. I also wanted this light to be easily portable and simple. In the chaos that is capturing 14 dogs in the time span of about an hour, I needed a lighting setup that I wouldn’t have to fidget with or adjust constantly. This brings us to the ProMaster BR130D LED Ringlight! It happened to be displayed right next to the rental counter in Camera Corner almost saying, “pick me!” I was attracted to the simplicity of it as well as the idea of trying something new, so Brett and Steve got me set up and off I went to go practice on my own dog at home!
Specs & Details
The ProMaster BR130D Ringlight is a 14″ AC powered light that you simply pop on a light stand, plug in, turn on and you are good to go. It doesn’t come with a light stand, so you’ll have to buy one separately. At just over 2lbs, it is easy to transport and set up, and the power cord is a very generous length allowing for a good amount of flexibility. By turning a dial, you can adjust brightness from 10-100%, however you can’t adjust the temperature – the Ringlight’s color temp is a fixed 5600K. This worked out perfectly for me, as this is daylight temperature and exactly what I typically shoot at in camera. Again, I wanted my artificial light source to match natural light as close as possible, so this was ideal. In addition, the Ringlight comes with a center mounting camera bracket! Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of this, but it’s a bracket that screws on to the light stand and places your camera in the middle of the light so you can shoot (or film) through it. You can also attach a tripod head to this bracket for even more flexibility. For this project, I did not shoot directly through the light because I wasn’t lighting my subjects straight-on, and also, dogs are cray-cray, so it just wouldn’t have been possible to keep my camera in one spot anyway. Once on the light stand, I loved that I could adjust the bracket to angle the light downward. With its circular shape and rounded features, the light itself creates an extremely soft, natural, shadowless effect which is so flattering for subjects of all kinds, and when I put it to use, I LOVED the way it looked on the dogs – especially the little round catch lights that would appear in their eyes! One of the things I loved MOST about the ProMaster BR130D Ringlight was the price! When buying gear it is SO easy to get carried away and spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on all of the pieces you need to make a photo happen. At $139.99, this user friendly light was worth every penny and is an awesome option for those ballin’ on a budget while needing something of great quality at the same time. I was originally just borrowing this light from Camera Corner, but on the day I was supposed to return it, I just ended up purchasing it!
I have to give a shout out to my Mom and some of the volunteers that were at Lucky 7 Dog Rescue while we were shooting. The photos would not have been possible without my helpers wiping peanut butter on noses for those fun tongue shots (which are my FAVORITE for some reason – why are dogs the cutest with their tongues out?!) as well as wrangling up energized dogs and placing them back in the places I needed them to be time and time again. As for me, I was rolling around on the ground the majority of the shoot since I needed to be at eye level with the pups, so I was pretty useless when it came to all of that work! When you attempt a puppy photo shoot, make sure you have someone you can delegate dog wrangling duties to or you won’t get very far!
I began by setting up near the rescue’s front window. I loved the soft black wall as a backdrop and I needed all the light I could get for the fast-action craziness that was about to ensue. I set up my ProMaster Ringlight to my right, raised it about 5 feet in the air and angled it downwards towards where the dogs would be. I wanted the dogs to be off the wall a little bit to create that soft, blurry background, but you kind of take what you can get when they are running all over the place! I kept the brightness at around 90% and I never touched the light again after that! Easy peasy!
Now, ignore the fact that this sweet pup isn’t exactly where I needed him to be yet when this image was snapped, but it’s going to help me prove a point. You may see this image and wonder, “with all of that light coming through the window, why would you need more? Isn’t that enough?” It really comes down to a few things. First, I wanted the dogs’ faces to be fully and evenly illuminated on both sides. There is no additional light source coming from the opposite side of the window to allow that, so the ProMaster Ringlight perfectly filled in all of the shadows where the available, natural light would have fallen off. These are dogs who we are trying to find forever homes for after all, so I wanted them to be fully visible and well lit! This photo is a perfect example that shows how dark their faces would have been on their left side, had they not been lit by the Ringlight! Second, I needed the most light I could get to capture still photos of dogs jumping, running, licking, barking and constantly wiggling around. Having that extra light source allowed me to bump up my shutter speed in order to freeze those moments. And lastly, I really loved the catch light that appeared in their eyes when the dogs were looking towards me!
Next up, I had to dial in my camera settings. The nice thing about consistent light and staying in relatively the same spot is that you can plug in your manual settings and then forget about them! This is something I’m totally not used to at my typical sessions and it was such a luxury! After some trial and error, I landed on these settings to capture properly exposed, focused images of the dogs:
Shutter speed: 1/1200 sec
Shooting mode: High speed continuous
Camera: Canon 5d Mark IV
Lens: 50mm 1.2
After all of that, it was off to the races. One after another, we placed the dogs in front of the wall for their time to shine and clicked like crazy! Shooting in high speed continuous mode ensured that I got each cute little movement or expression that the dogs made without missing a beat! It’s funny, because at the beginning of all this I had imagined nicely posed photos of sitting dogs looking right at the camera, like it could have been their school photo… and what happened was anything but! And that was the BEST part! I love that you can see so much of their personalities in the photos. The jumping, the funny expressions, their profiles as they looked to the side, all of it. I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way! It’s important to remember that dogs are just like little kids when it comes to having their photos taken. They definitely have a time limit, and half of that time they’re just going to do what they’re going to do. Embrace it, keep an open mind, and don’t push them longer than they want to go.
Overall, I am so thrilled with how my first dog portrait experience went! I’m excited to hone my skills further with this light and even work on using it with zero natural light. I couldn’t have achieved these results without the help from my friends at Camera Corner and the ProMaster BR130D Ringlight, which I will now be using CONSTANTLY, as well as my friends and puppy wranglers at Lucky 7 Dog Rescue! If this inspired you to try something like this yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or the folks at Camera Corner for tips or help in getting it done! And with all of that, here are the promised dog portraits! To see them all, head to my Facebook page and be sure to follow along as I will be capturing photos of Lucky 7s adoptable dogs throughout the year! Thanks for reading!